The Best Noise-Canceling Headphones At Any Budget

Frequent travelers know how noisy airplanes can be. Between the roar of the engine and the woosh of the air conditioner, it can be tough to hear the music or audiobooks you brought along to relax. Instead of cranking up the volume as high as it can go, consider investing in a pair of noise-canceling headphones, which block out external noises and save your ears from fatigue.

Here are three top-rated models to check out on any budget.

Affordable Headphones

Zune Headphones v2Zune Premium Headphones v2

Start from: $29.87

About: If you’re a music lover on a budget, Zune’s Premium Headphones are a good pick. While not technically noise-canceling headphones, reviewers say they’re extremely effective for blocking external noise, and you’ll love the price. The in-ear headphones come with four sets of inserts, so you can find the pair that best fits your ears for maximum sound reduction. Travelers who are concerned about portability and storage will be pleased with the compact size, the magnetic buds that prevent the wires from tangling, and a clip that wraps the headphones up for storage in a cloth pouch. Ninety-seven reviewers on Amazon.com gave the product 5 out of 5 stars and cited the comfort, quality sound and construction as reasons they liked these headphones. The one major complaint among many reviewers was the noise the cloth chord makes when it rubs against anything.

Overheard: “These are by far the best headphones I’ve ever had. They have amazing sound quality and blew me away.” – Darman92 on Amazon.com

Mid-range Headphones

QuietPoint HeadphonesAudio-Technica ATH-ANC7 QuietPoint Noise-Canceling Headphones

Start from: $114.99

About: If you think Bose is the only company that can make superior sound equipment, think again. The ATH-ANC7 QuietPoint headphones reduce up to 85 percent of environmental noise with or without audio. Just remove the detachable cable to take advantage of the noise-canceling function without audio. The 40 mm drivers with a neodymium magnet system provide excellent sound quality, and the headphones operate on a single AAA battery. Reviewers say the headphones are comfortable and lightweight; however, at least one reviewer said they weren’t terribly portable. Several reviewers said they wished they were sturdier. Still, you can’t beat the value. The product averages 4.5 stars from 1,123 reviews on Amazon.com.

Overheard: “If you’re looking for near-audiophile balanced sound (bass, mid and high frequencies), I think you won’t be disappointed. Great design, great noise canceling, great battery life, detachable cord, very comfortable, and less than half the price of the [Bose QuietComfort 2].” – W.Stohler on Amazon.com.

High-end Headphones

Bose QuietComfort 15SBose QuietComfort 15S

Start from: $299.99

About: If you found a cheap ticket, try splurging on a pair of premium headphones. Bose’s QuietComfort models use a combination of passive noise-isolation by completely covering your ear with very comfortable leather ear pads and active noise-isolation with noise-canceling circuitry that basically inverses all external noise. While the technology comes with a big price tag, many reviewers say the comfort and sound is worth the extra expense. Reviewers rated these first in noise-canceling abilities compared with competitors like the Sennheiser PXC 450 or the Audio Technica ATH-ANC7. The headphones are powered by a single AAA battery, which was the source of one complaint among several reviewers who said they didn’t like that once the battery died, the audio died, too. Accessories include a detachable audio cable, airline adapter, carrying case and AAA battery.

Overheard: “Bose’s luxuriously designed QuietComfort models have set the standard for premium noise-canceling headphones,” according to CNET.com.

Photos courtesy of Amazon.com

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Published: May 26, 2011